Cheltenham's frost fiasco proves costly for Gillespie

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The Independent Online
December is generally an expensive month for all of us, but for Edward Gillespie it has proved unusually costly, writes Greg Wood. Cheltenham's managing director was yesterday fined pounds 600 by a Jockey Club Disciplinary Committee for his role in the last-minute abandonment of the course's Tripleprint Gold Cup meeting in early December. Some of the punters who wasted time and money travelling to the course may feel he got off lightly.

Gillespie, who was acting clerk of the course on the day in question, was found to be in breach of Rule 222 (iii), a catch-all regulation which covers bringing racing into disrepute. The abandonment, shortly before the first race was due to start, was a public-relations catastrophe for Cheltenham, with an estimated crowd of 8,000 already at the track. Most have now had their admission fee refunded, although many are still out of pocket as a result of travelling and other expenses.

Despite an overnight frost, Gillespie's response to all enquiries was that there was no threat to racing. He also failed to inform the stewards that the course was unraceable when inspected at 6am. There had been no significant improvement when the stewards walked the course at noon, and the decision to abandon the meeting was announced shortly afterwards.

Gillespie acknowledged yesterday that mistakes had been made. "We've all learned a lesson." he said. "Racing is all about communication, and obviously if faced with the circumstances again, it would come higher up the list of priorities."

n The champion apprentice, Seb Sanders, has been given a seven-day ban for failing to attend a Jockey Club inquiry last month.

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